Sandpoint hosts workshop on Memorial Field options

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(Photo by MARY MALONE) The grandstands at Memorial Field are well underway and a new sidewalk is in along the north side of the field where the new entryway will soon be under construction. City officials held the second public workshop last week, leading up to a decision by City Council on what type of turf will replace the grass field — artificial, natural, or a combination of both.

SANDPOINT — No matter what the ultimate decision is regarding turf at War Memorial Field — artificial turf, natural turf, or a mixture of both — it will be an improvement from the current conditions of the field.

City officials hosted the second public workshop last week in an effort to garner adequate input from the community before a decision is made.

"It's an interesting dilemma — it's a nice dilemma that we actually have the resources to have this conversation in the first place," said Kim Woodruff, Parks and Recreation director. "For so many years we didn't."

In brief overview of the first workshop, Tom Sherry with SPVV Landscape Architects in Spokane said there were 40 attendees with 37 written responses, though some were "not quite complete."

Of those who responded, 88 percent live in the city of Sandpoint and 84 percent visit Memorial Field more than five times a year; 51 percent said they prefer the high performance natural turf option, 34 percent preferred artificial turf and 15 percent preferred a combination of the two.

Based on public comments throughout both meetings, attendees who want sports to thrive at the field prefer the artificial turf option, while some neighborhood residents and Festival folks want to keep it natural. There was talk about compromise, because if City Council ultimately decides on natural turf, the Festival may have to be moved from August to July to give it time to heal before football season begins.

There is also an option for a combination of natural and artificial, which would greatly extend use for baseball and other sports, but even the all-natural would extend use of the field to late fall and early spring, because the main issue at this time is the poor drainage.

Memorial Field gets an average of 750 hours of use per year between the Festival at Sandpoint, events such as weddings and graduation, and sporting events, including football, soccer, baseball and lacrosse.

The high performance natural turf option would include a subsurface drainage system, as well as a filtration system for nutrients from fertilizers, which currently drain directly into the Pend Oreille River. The artificial turf is made from a natural cork product and would also include a subsurface drainage system, although it does not need a filtration system, since no fertilizer is used on artificial turf. The combination of artificial and natural would consist mainly of natural grass throughout the field, but the baseball infield would be artificial.

Artificial turf would allow year-round use of the field, Sherry said. Even the snow could be removed for use in the winter. The combination would greatly extend use for baseball and other sports, but even the all-natural would extend use of the field to late fall and early spring, because the main issue at this time is the poor drainage.

Natural turf is the least expensive option to install and maintain. The cost of installation is $1,041,210 with a per-year maintenance cost of $194,043. Combined turf is in the mid-range at $1,170,335 with a $203,367 annual cost. Artificial turf is the most expensive option, with installation estimated at $1,314,389 and a $241,825 annual cost, though the annual cost is broken down from a 12-year replacement. The actual maintenance cost after the purchase of specialized equipment is much lower each year, but the turf is estimated to need replacement every 10-12 years.

City administrator Jennifer Stapleton said a date has not been set for a final decision, but it will likely be this summer. The city will have an online tool in the next week or so where the public can enter the turf discussion. Stapleton said an announcement will go out when that option is available.

The work currently underway at Memorial Field is "on target" for high school graduation next month, Stapleton said. A new sidewalk is in along the area where the entryway is being prepared for construction. Workers are hoping for some nice weather between now and graduation, and while the entryway might not be complete at that time, Stapleton said they will be able to get people in the seats and have a "nice facility" for graduation.

"Construction crews are really working hard on getting us as far as we can by that graduation date," Stapleton said.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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